Formation of the Black Student Organization at ISU

For this look back at the 1960s I’ve decided to explore the origins of the Black Student Organization at ISU (now the Black Student Alliance). Not only is it a story that is not well-known to me, but I suspect it is not familiar to most people now at Iowa State. It seems almost all Iowa Staters are familiar with the story of George Washington Carver, Iowa State’s first African American student and faculty member, and the tragedy of Iowa State’s first black athlete, Jack Trice. After doing some research into our student organizations files here in the archives, I found that the story of the formation of the Black Student Organization at ISU is just as interesting and incredibly relevant to students on campus today.

The 1960s at Iowa State started off much as the 1950s left off. Strict rules were still in place regulating conduct and social interaction of women students. Students were separated into different dormitories with men on one side of campus and the women on the other. However, as the 1960s wore on, student perceptions began to change. Like in much of the country, students began to question the war in Vietnam, female students began to push back against gender barriers, and students of color began to speak out against racism and prejudice.

In the summer of 1967, the faculty and staff newspaper, News of Iowa State, ran an article reporting on a study completed by two ISU journalism students regarding the racial climate at Iowa State. The findings, authored by Pat Alford, identified as a “Negro coed from Charlotte, N.C.,” and Maurine Foster, simply identified as a Weldon, Iowa native, were both journalism students at Iowa State. The results of their study found that the racial climate at Iowa State at that time was “relatively favorable.” During those years, the University attempted to eliminate overt discrimination. Students interviewed in the study didn’t believe they would be denied membership to student groups, but with an enrollment of around 125, black students largely felt they were being left out of the mainstream of college life. (This may help explain why it is so difficult to find a photograph in our collections of an African-American student at Iowa State prior to 1970 unless he was involved in athletics.)

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Article from the Iowa State Daily, April 6, 1968, reporting on the demonstration by a group of students at the Memorial Union the previous day.

This favorable view of campus race relations abruptly changed following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968. The following day, black students on campus held a demonstration in the Commons of the Memorial Union. According to a report by the Iowa State Daily (April 6, 1968), a group of approximately 40 students filed into the Union, toasted to “black unity on campus” and then dropped and shattered their drinking glasses on the floor, overturned their tables and chairs, and quietly left. Following the demonstration, a statement was issued and signed by the “Afro-American Students of Iowa State University,” a group that formed the night before under the leadership of student Bruce Ellis. The students adopted a constitution on April 23, 1968 and officially became the Black Student Organization.

In early May, students and administrators were interviewed by the Iowa State Daily (May 3, 1968) for an article on campus race relations. One of those students was Pat Alford, the student from Charlotte. The article identifies some of the common forms of discrimination blacks faced at Iowa State. These included overt forms such as insensitive signs and symbols used by student groups and the denial of access to certain student groups based on skin color. It is interesting that these statements seem to conflict with what was reported a year earlier. The article noted the psychological burdens of being a person of color in a community where the vast majority of students and faculty are white. Black students also felt they were missing out on social interactions at Iowa State. According to one estimate, black male students outnumbered black female students at Iowa State 15 to 1, resulting in many black male students traveling to Des Moines to find a date.

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1967 Iowa State football team (Bomb, 1968, page 119)

Within weeks, the Black Student Organization would take their concerns to University administration. On May 20, 1968, the black athletes of Iowa State, with the full support of the Black Student Organization, issued eight grievances to the Athletic Council. The students asked for racial representation in the coaching staff and administration of the athletics department, reprimands or removal of three coaches and trainers they accused of discriminatory treatment of black athletes, more leniency for all athletes in terms of academics and living requirements, an allowance for black athletes to seek employment while on full scholarship, and a request that the ISU community use the words Black Students or Afro-Americans in place of the term Negro.

The initial response from the Athletic Council, signed by council chairman John Mahlstede, did not exactly impress the students. Dated two weeks later on June 5, the response was carefully worded, but it was clear that the Council did not find any evidence of discriminatory actions by the coaches or in its hiring practices. Not surprisingly, this announcement did not end the controversy.

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The first page from a letter, dated May 20, 1968, submitted to the Athletic Council on behalf of the black student athletess. (See file labeled Black Student Organization – Athletic Council Issue in RS 22/3/0/1, Multicultural Student Affairs)

By the end of June, President W. Robert Parks asked that the University Human Relations Committee conduct a separate investigation into the grievances. This report, presented just two weeks later, recognized that discrimination almost assuredly existed on campus and that “the need for change in behavior on the part of individual members of the University community is crucial.” The report did not charge any individuals with discriminatory actions. It did, however, strongly encourage the hiring of a black football coach, a recommendation that coach Johnny Majors fulfilled when he hired coach Ray Green in the spring of 1969.

These actions did not satisfy everyone. At least seven students carried through on their promise to leave Iowa State if and when the Athletic Council did not comply with the eight grievances. Bruce Ellis, president of the Black Student Organization, was one of these students along with two football players. Though these students did not immediately effect the change they hoped to, their actions did initiate a conversation about race and inclusivity that in many ways continues today. They also helped foster a growing awareness among members of the ISU community that racism and discrimination were present on the Iowa State campus and that the entire community was responsible for addressing the concerns raised by black students of Iowa State.

More information on the early years of the Black Student Organization (now known as the Black Student Alliance) is available in Special Collections and University Archives in collection RS 22/3/0/1, Multicultural Student Organizations. Unfortunately, the black student experience at Iowa State is largely underrepresented in the archives. Most of the materials that are available to historians and researchers consist of newspaper clippings or files from campus administration. These records are often incomplete and leave gaps in the historical record. We welcome collection materials (i.e. photographs, letters, flyers, etc.) from alumni that might help document the experience of black students at Iowa State.


Rare Book Highlights: the oldest book

Large books sits in an open box with sides raised at angles to support the book when it is opened.

Quaestiones de veritate sitting in its cradle box specially designed by a former intern with the library’s Preservation Department.

Saint Thomas Aquinas. Quaestiones de veritate. Colonie: Johann Koelhoeff de Lubeck, 1475. Call number: XI 1475 T36.

It is certainly not the oldest book in the world, but it is the oldest book at Iowa State University Library. This copy of St. Thomas Aquinas‘s work, known in English as Disputed Questions on Truth and originally written in the 13th century, was printed by Johann Koelhoeff de Lubeck in 1475 in Cologne, Germany.  It is what is referred to as an incunabulum, or “incunable,” a book printed in Europe before the year 1501. “Incunabula” is a Latin word that translates to “swaddling clothes,” and it refers to books from “the cradle of printing” period–the first 50 years of printing following Gutenberg‘s invention of moveable type and the printing press. These are the first European books that were made in a mechanized fashion, after centuries of scribes in monasteries painstakingly copying books by hand.

With its designation as ISU’s Oldest Book, this Aquinas sees a lot of use. We trot it out for visiting VIPs getting a tour of the library. We show it to alumni, and occasionally to eager groups of students who heard something about a really old book. And this book is worth seeing. Not only because it is “really old,” but because it demonstrates a lot about how early books were made.

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The cover shows signs of being quite ornamental. Leather was stretched over wooden boards, and the leather was stamped with hot metal tools. These tools created diamond patterns and stamps of what looks like a deer, birds, fleur de lis, and other floral and geometric shapes. There are holes in four corners and in the center that likely once held bosses (click here for another blog post featuring bosses), and there are signs of clasps at the edges of the front and back covers.

Shows an open book. On the left side is a sheet with two columns of handwritten text.

Manuscript leaf used to attach the covers to the book.

Opening up the book, there are more interesting things to see. Above, you can see a manuscript leaf (a page that has been written by hand) that had been used as a front endpaper covering the wooden board of the cover. It was a common practice for early bookbinders to use manuscript waste or print waste in this way. Here is a close-up view of the manuscript writing:

Close up of the manuscript inside the front cover of the book.

Close up of the manuscript inside the front cover of the book.

The inside back cover is similar, but here, a strip of the paper has been torn away to reveal the cords laced in the board. The pages of a book are sewn onto a series of cords. These cords are then attached to the boards, as can be seen below. On the spine, you can see evidence of the cords hidden underneath the leather in what are known as raised bands.

Looking into the pages of the text itself, we see that the pages of the printed text look very similar to the manuscript pages lining the boards. In both the  manuscript and printed leaves, the page layout is very similar with two columns of text and wide margins that was commonly used for medieval manuscripts. The typeface was designed to resemble the form of letters in medieval scripts.

Two facing pages of a book. Each page has two columns of text. There are large red initial capital letters and other red markings added to the text by pen.

Inside pages of Quaestiones de veritate.

What also stands out are the red initial capital letters at the beginning of sections of the text. These features were also brought into printing from the medieval manuscript tradition. These initials could be decorated in various ways, and could sometimes contain elaborate figures and scenes. Here they are simple red letter forms, but I find them no less appealing for their simplicity.

The pages also contain numerous other red markings in the text. This is referred to as rubrication and is usually used to indicate the end of one section of text and the beginning of another, and sometimes to announce the subject of the section or its purpose. The word “rubrication” comes from the Latin rubrico, meaning “to color red.” A completed text was given to a special scribe known as a rubricator who would add the additional red markings. Here we see this early printed work following a similar process.

Thanks for coming on this tour of our oldest book in the collection. Now you can see why it gets so much attention!


#TBT A Painting Party @ISUDesign

This weeks #TBT photo comes from the College of Design. Pictured here is a group of students working on their projects for an art class. While the photo is undated, it looks like it was taken in the 1950s (note the hair and clothing styles, not to mention the saddle shoes!). For more information on the College of Design (which wasn’t a formal college until 1979), take a look at some of our collections! We also have many more photos of students in art classes, as well as photos of students’ art pieces.

Students working on their art projects, undated. University Photographs, RS 26/2/F, Box 2076.

Students working on their art projects, undated. University Photographs, RS 26/2/F, Box 2076.

 


Coming soon: Avian Archives of Iowa Online (avIAn)

Black and white photograph of baby chipping sparrow sitting on a tree branch with its mother feeding it.

Photograph of chipping sparrows from Walter Rosene Papers, MS 589. Back of photo reads, “Meal time in the chipping sparrow family. This youngster is 9 days old.”

We are very pleased to announce that Iowa State University received a 2016 Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives Award from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). This grant will fund a two-year project to establish a web portal for digital Iowa ornithological primary sources dating from 1895 to 2012. The Avian Archives of Iowa Online (avIAn) will include material from eight collections from Special Collections and University Archives. These collections  document over one hundred years of bird study in Iowa and encompass some of the Midwest’s most influential conservationists.

Handwritten journal page reads, "Saturday June 14, 1924. Left Sioux City at 3:45 p.m. Speedometer reading 16998. Photo of us by car at start (spoiled). Red wing - Dickcissel - Meadowlark. Mourning Dove - Flicker - Barn Swallow...

Journal from Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota bird watching trip, 1924. Walter M. Rosene, Sr. Papers, MS 589, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library, box 13, folder 1.

The selected collections include:

Once completed, avIAn will present the items as both archival materials and as scientific data, expanding its potential user base.

For more information, see the Library’s news release.

 


Report of foreign seeds and plants received at Ames, 1907 to 1914

One of my duties is cataloging old bachelors theses in the University Archives. I have worked my way up to 1916 with lots more to go. At some point ISU stopped generating so many theses at the bachelor level of study, but there’s no end in sight for me, so it’s a good thing some of the theses are interesting. I have blogged about them before: see my July, 2016 item entitled In 1913, students had designs on the Campanile’s chimes.

In 1915, a horticulture student named John Hampden Allison wrote his thesis on efforts to bring plants from around the world to Ames. I was intrigued to learn of the existence of the “Ames Plant Introduction Garden.” Receiving shipments of plants was just the beginning since the point was to grow and study them for a variety of reasons. I had not realized there was such a thing as the United States Office of Seed and Plant Introduction, either. “Invasive species” come to mind when I think about such matters from my non-farmer, non-horticulturalist perspective 100+ years after Allison submitted his thesis. In fact these plant introduction activities were admirably thoughtful. We use plant matter for innumerable purposes from food to medicine to building materials. It stands to reason that science and commerce would benefit from ongoing systematic programs of this type.

Nowadays we are beginning to take genetic engineering of plants and animals for granted. It still seems futuristic, but genetic engineering is a well-established means of modifying organisms’ traits to better suit human needs. In 1915 genetic engineering was science fiction; selective breeding and the acquisition of desirable variants or alternative species were the only games in town. Hence the existence of seed “banks” and “libraries” and places like the Ames Plant Introduction Garden.

Report of Foreign Seeds and Plants Received at Ames, 1907 to 1914 / J. H. Allison. 1915.

Report of Foreign Seeds and Plants Received at Ames, 1907 to 1914 / J. H. Allison. 1915. Page 7. ISU Spec. Coll. and Univ. Archives. Call no. C Ob 1915 Allison.

As you can see from the photo caption above, a major area of interest was how various species would respond to Iowa’s climate. It is unclear whether the 1911-1912 winter low temperature of -35° should be interpreted as Fahrenheit or Celsius, but either one would be lower than expected. Weather Channel data for Ames (as found at Wikipedia) states that the “highest recorded temperature was 102° F (39° C) in 1988 and the lowest was −28° F in 1996.” For comparison a list entitled Des Moines Climate 1878-Present gives a lowest daily minimum of -30 [sic] on January 5 of 1884. Not having time for further research into this subtopic, I conclude that Allison’s cited reading of -35° is Fahrenheit and is plausible, but only as a record-breaking historical anomaly.

Allison contextualizes the photo further on page 6. He describes Amygdalus davidiana as “a wild peach native to China” that came to Ames by way of Chico, California. The story is that the Ames Plant Introduction Garden had a “peach orchard of hardy native varieties [that] was practically killed out” by the extreme winter lows of 1911-1912 but that the Chinese peach trees (Amygdalus davidiana) “withstood the temperature like oaks.” Good to know.

Other topics are covered in Allison’s book as well – greenhouse versus outdoor cultivation results, characteristics of fruit, potential for hybridization, et cetera. The text is not particularly scientific in itself, but I can see its usefulness as a readable summary of its subject matter.

Working with this book (and then blogging about it) is a good example of what it’s like to be a cataloger in special collections. There is no time for me to learn about all the diverse topics that I encounter. I have to learn enough to create bibliographic descriptions, and maybe the occasional blog entry, but if I spend too much time learning about unfamiliar subjects my productivity suffers. In conclusion, I hope I have done justice to J. H. Allison’s thesis and related topics. As always, readers should feel free to comment. Share your knowledge or life experience in relation to my themes.

UPDATE: In comments, reader Brian Mayer provided information about the North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station and a link to its website. It’s gratifying to know that the NCRPIS and affiliated organizations remain committed to “preserving and providing plant genetic resources for agriculture since 1948.” Thanks, Brian.

 


Working the Corner of Yesterday and Tomorrow

When I was a kid schoolteachers used slide projectors quite a bit. Slides and transparencies are very easy to use. Film projectors and reels are a little trickier, but those were commonly used as well. Some instructors were still using these media when I was earning my degrees (roughly 1995 to 2007). Doing so could make sense: not all topics are subject to change, and if the teaching aids and apparatus are durable, why not use that slide show on Renaissance art for 20 years?

Working in archives often means working with outmoded technology and information-bearing media. It’s interesting that while archivists are not stuck in the past — we use cutting-edge tools, we collect and preserve modern stuff — archivists can never forget about the old media, machinery, methods, and materials. All that is donated to (and actively collected by) institutions like archives, museums, and special libraries.

Today I will blog about glass slides and the projectors that love them. ISU Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) has more than one set of glass slides, but our largest set of them is part of the Warren H. Manning Papers (manuscript collection MS 218). Manning (1860-1938) was a giant in the realm of landscape architecture. Photography was one of his favorite tools. Among other things, SCUA’s Manning collection includes over 2000 glass “lantern slides” and over 1000 photographic prints made from the slides. Take a look — 1554 images are online here. Quite a few are of scant interest to laypeople, but there are interesting and beautiful ones too:

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Taken at Ishpeming, Michigan. William G. Mather house before planting. No date. Manning lantern slide #489. Image ID 218.LS.489.

The word “lantern” in “lantern slides” sounds a bit archaic, doesn’t it? When I think of lanterns, I think of wicks and flames, not light bulbs. Similarly, some people — Brits, possibly others — refer to flashlights as “electric torches” or just “torches,” a usage I find appealing. Lantern slide projectors use bulbs, but they are descended from magic lanterns. The basic idea is very old and requires nothing more than a source of light (the brighter the better) and something to shine it through (not necessarily a photograph: stained glass invites comparison). In this way it reminds me of the camera obscura. What could be simpler, and yet so pregnant with possibilities?

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A Spencer “Delineascope” glass slide projector, one of several that SCUA owns. Made in the 1920s. Was used for instructional purposes at ISU.

Of course, making glass slides with photographic images on them is a 19th century development. While archives and collectors should take good care of the slides, and maintain some projectors of the same vintage, we have an interest in reformatting the images. Glass slides are heavy and fragile. The projector pictured above is very heavy (take my word for it). Most people do not need to use the originals; photographic prints and digitized versions are usually better options. We pursue the same strategy when we offer facsimiles of rare books and manuscripts. Certain researchers need to see the real artifacts, and within reason we love to show them off.

The work of reformatting information resources takes as many forms as there are types of media. Consider that some things can be viewed with the naked eye, while others require an intermediary device (such as a projector). Computer programs and data storage are an extreme case; since the “goalposts” have moved so quickly, meeting requirements for preserving and accessing legacy digital resources is a daunting challenge.

Being a musician I am tempted to digress into digital audio reformatting and related topics, but I’ll save those thoughts for another time.

 


Basketball: Iowa State versus Kansas 60 Years Ago #TBT

Wilt Chamberlain (Kansas #13)

From University Photograph Collection, 24/5/G, box 1817

This Saturday, January 14th, marks the 60th anniversary of a well-remembered game in Iowa State’s basketball history: Iowa State versus Kansas. Both teams had players which would go on to have major professional basketball careers:  Gary Thompson (Iowa State, #20) and Wilt Chamberlain (Kansas, #13). In the photograph above, Chamberlain is attempting to make a basket while Thompson guards on the floor.

It was an exciting game, with Iowa State beating Kansas, 39-37. At the very end, Don Medsker made the winning basket. The game was Chamberlain’s first loss in college basketball. In celebration of the win, Iowa State fans invaded the Armory’s floor after the game.

A number of images documenting the game are now available in Digital Collections. Although we don’t have a program from the game (please contact us if you’d be willing to donate one!), we do have news clippings from that year in RS 24/5/0/0, box 1, folder 1, a folder of materials on Gary Thompson (RS 21/7/1), and the book “Gary Thompson, All-American” by Gary Offenburger.  Additional men’s basketball records are also available in the University Archives.


# TBT Toboggan Race

Currently there is very little snow on the ground and it’s a windy but sunny 37 degrees Fahrenheit. However, today’s Throwback Thursday picture shows an entirely different scene. Below shows a snowy day, likely in late January, with students having a toboggan race during the 1949 Winter Carnival. Check out our previous post about the Winter Carnival.

students pulling other students on toboggans, snowy landscape

From University Photographs RS 22/7/G (box 1670)

The reading room is closed tomorrow and Monday January 2. We are back to our regular hours Monday-Friday beginning Tuesday, January 3. Drop by and see us!


Rare Book Highlights: Benjamin Franklin and electricity

Franklin, Benjamin. Experiments and observations on electricity, made at Philadelphia in America. London: Printed for F. Newbery, 1774. Call number: QC516 F854e5

Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Vol. 47, London: Royal Society of London, 1751-52. Call number: Q41 R812p

We’ve all heard the story of Benjamin Franklin discovering electricity by tying a key to a kite and flying it during a thunderstorm. But have you ever thought about how that story was documented?

Diagrams of leyden jars, lightnight rods, and various electrical experiments

The title page and frontispiece of Benjamin Franklin’s “Experiments and Observations on Electricity.”

As usual,the truth of the matter is a little more complicated than what we learned as children. Mythbusters performed an experiment to show that Ben would have been killed by the electric shock if he had actually touched the key. Other scholars note, however, that the charge in the key came from the surrounding atmosphere, and not from a lightning strike, making the charge much lower in intensity. Nor did Franklin exactly discover electricity. At the time, electricity was known and studied, but only in its static form (Carter 119). Franklin did prove through his experiments that lightning is a form of electricity, and he first proposed the use of lightning rods on buildings, masts of ships, or other tall structures, to attract the lightning away from the building and conduct the electric shock down into the ground.

Ben Franklin conducted a number of electrical experiments throughout the 18th century, along with a community of scientists throughout Europe. He shared the results of his experiments by letter, and he enjoyed a particular correspondence with Peter Collinson, a British scientist and Fellow of the Royal Society of London.  In his letters to Collinson, he described his experiments with Leyden jars, charged clouds, and lightning rods. Many of these letters were read at meetings of the Royal Society, where the experiments were discussed. Several other men of science performed their own experiments, and shared the results of these experiments through papers read at Royal Society meetings and through correspondence to Franklin and others.

Collinson gathered Franklin’s letters together and published them in London in 1751 under the title Experiments and Observations on Electricity, Made at Philadelphia in America. Five editions were printed by 1769, and editions in French, German, and Italian, were published not long after. Franklin’s work in electricity established his international reputation as a scientist, and this publication is considered to be “the most important scientific book of eighteenth-century America” (Carter 119).

Iowa State University library holds a copy published in 1774, the fifth edition by the printer F. Newbery of London. A description of the famous kite experiment can be found in Letter XI, from Oct. 19, 1752, shown below.

ISU also holds the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, where many of the letters from Franklin to Collinson and others are published. A different letter to Collinson describing the kite experiment is published in the Transactions. It was dated from Philadelphia on October 1, 1752, and it was read two-and-a-half months later, on Dec. 21, 1752.

Others were studying electricity at the same time. The same volume of Philosophical Transactions includes “An Account of the Effects of Lightning at Southmolton in Devonshire, by Joseph Palmer, Esquire,” which was read to the Society on January 9, 1752, and “An Account of the Phaenomena of Electricity in vacuo, with Some Observations thereupon, by Mr. Wm. Watson, F.R.S.,” read February 20, 1752.

Even if Ben Franklin did not “discover electricity,” he certainly made important contributions to the general understanding of the nature of electricity and lightning.

Work Cited

Carter, John, and Percy H. Muir. Printing and the Mind of Man. Karl Pressler, 1983.


A Winter’s Day on Campus #TBT

Old Main in the snow, 1899. University Photographs, RS 4/8/J, Box 348

Old Main in the snow, 1899. University Photographs, RS 4/8/J, Box 348

Winter is officially here! Whether you love it or hate it, you have to admit that the snow can be quite beautiful. This photo provides just one example. Behind the snow-frosted trees are two buildings – the English Office Building (home of the President’s Office) on the left and Old Main on the right. The English Office Building was located roughly where Carver Hall now stands.

If you want to see a great view of wintry campus while staying out of the elements, stop by our reading room! While you’re here, you can take a look materials from any of our great collections. Stay warm out there!